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Nothing ordinary about this wedding singer

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Rochell Simons Lecomte’s singing career was just taking off in New York City when a family crisis in 1988 forced her to abandon her dreams.

It was then that the Bermudian singer, who moved to New York in 1979, learned her father Russell had become gravely ill. She made the choice to return home to be with him and her mother she has no regrets.

My father had cancer and just hearing my mother on the phone and how distraught she was was what brought me back home,” Mrs Simons Lecomte explained. “I’m a family-orientated person and family comes first.”

She was giving up what had been a promising start.

Mrs Simons Lecomte became a member of a dance band called Fresh Heir in the 1980s. The group performed in Atlantic City and throughout New Jersey.

It wasn’t long before Mrs Simons Lecomte got her big break. She became the first Bermudian to be signed to a major record label in 1984, when she was signed by Warner Brothers. She released three hit singles: ‘Love Me Tonight’, ‘Who Do You Love’ and her ‘My Magic Man’. The latter song reached number one in the UK charts and number seven on the US Billboard charts.

It was then that she received the call from home.

She went to Warner Brothers and asked for permission to return to Bermuda to care for her father.

“I was released from my contract which is very rare because they can sue you for breach of contract,” she explained. “But because my father was so ill they agreed to release me. He lived maybe two years after I came home and I ended up being settled here and never went back. This is where I met my husband Eric who is French.”

Her early success in the US enabled Mrs Simons Lecomte to meet many of that nation’s top performers Chaka Khan, Cissy Houston, CC Winans, Shirley Bassey, the late Luther Vandross, Phyllis Hyman and Mark Anthony.

Mr Vandross’s background vocalists Lisa Fisher and Cindy Mizell sang backup on ‘Magic Man’.

Mrs Simons Lecomte was flown to California to sing that song at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game and later invited to a pool party at the home of former Lakers’ star Magic Johnson.

It was a wonderful journey for a woman who began singing as a young child.

The second youngest child of a large family, she grew up with singing in her blood. Her late parents Sylvia and Russell, were both singers. Her mother sang in the choir at Gospel Hall in Sandys, and her dad was a baritone who also played the acoustic guitar.

Mrs Simons Lecomte’s niece, Twaneé Butterfield, is now in Los Angeles pursuing a singing career.

“Her auntie ‘Ro Ro’ gave her some advice before she left, the extra push she needed,” said Mrs Simons Lecomte.

She believes there is an abundance of musical talent on the Island, but insists it takes more than just raw talent to succeed.

“Bermuda has the talent but there is a way to pursue it,” she said. “A lot of our entertainers haven’t experienced the outside world and they need to get out of the box. My motto has always been ‘to succeed is to never give up’. You have to have a certain drive.”

One of her own early teachers was cousin Jeananne (DeSilva) McConnie who was a member of the Upper Room Quintet and who took her under her wing and coached her.

At the age of 13 she collaborated with her younger sister Mary (Maybury) to record two singles, ‘Angel on Vacation’ and ‘Open Your Heart’, with male gospel group The Mello Tones.

Mrs Simons Lecomte resumed her singing career back in Bermuda in 1993, singing alongside Dawnelle Robinson and Sheila Smith in the group Star Dust.

She continues to perform locally at community events, weddings and fashion shows.

Rochelle Simons hosting tribute concert ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )
Ghandi Burgess
Hubert Smith - Tony C.
<B>Concert to honour past musicians</B>

Past Bermuda entertainers are to be honoured in an upcoming concert by local musicians.

Late artists Ghandi Burgess, Lance Hayward, Hubert Smith and the Talbot Brothers will have their contributions recognised at the September 29 event.

Singer Rochelle Simons Lecomte is the organiser the concert will feature the music of Michael Jackson.

“I will be performing the majority of the songs from Michael,” she said. “I was one of his biggest fans.

“Every other year I’ll be doing tributes to famous entertainers overseas to keep our deceased entertainers’ memories alive that’s my goal. I’ve been trying to put this together for the past two years. Everything is laid out now, it’s just a matter of putting it all together like a jigsaw puzzle. I have the right people involved which is very important.”

Entertainers confirmed for the concert include the Jackson School of Dancers, Mrs Simons Lecomte’s daughter, singer Ravonne Roberts and rapper Jay Silver.

Sheila Smith, Tosha Coddrington and Chandra Maybury will perform backup for Mrs Simons Lecomte, along with Steve Easton.

Roy Richardson will serve as emcee; Valerie Leader and Kelly Zuill will pay tribute to Bermuda’s deceased entertainers.

The event will take place at the Fairmont Southampton. General admission is $80; VIP tickets are $120, which includes pre-show cocktails.

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Published March 28, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 28, 2012 at 9:09 am)

Nothing ordinary about this wedding singer

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